National campaign focuses on connections to families, friends, communities

FREEHOLD, N.J. – Older adults are the fastest growing segment of the online population. People over the age of 60 are using Facebook, Google, Yahoo and YouTube.

They are e-mailing, texting and blogging – and it is having a positive impact on their lives as they are communicating more frequently with family, reconnecting with old friends, keeping up with community news and managing their health issues.

The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders recently announced their support of the national Home for the Holiday Campaign to help older adults stay connected through today’s technology tools.

“Connectivity for older adults results in a better quality of life and technology can really have a positive impact if used appropriately,” Freeholder Amy A. Mallet said. “The county is supporting this national campaign and hopes that when families get together for the holidays, the younger generations engage their older relatives in a discussion about staying connected – and vice versa.”

Eldercare Locator, the Home for the Holiday campaign’s sponsor, has released a guide with tips and information to help the aging population get more familiar with technology tools while also helping them make smart decisions about how to be safe online.

Staying Connected: Technology Options for Older Adults takes users through the basic facts about how to use tools such as Facebook, e-mail and texting, including privacy and safety information. The guide also introduces YouTube, Twitter, Skype, Instant Messaging and blogging – all tools that older adults can use to stay connected.

“In every senior center I visit, the staff and elders proudly show me two things: their computer lab and their workout room. Both are encouraging signs of active aging,” said Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  “Today’s technologies have a lot to offer older adults, if they understand how to use the tools in safe and smart ways. This holiday season, as families get together we hope they use our tips as the starting point for a conversation with their older relatives about how they can stay connected by using these innovations.”

Recent studies have shown that the aging population has become especially receptive to social media. According to an eMarketer report, nearly 47 percent of baby boomers actively maintained a profile on the social web in 2009, up 15 percent from 2008, and so do 36 percent of “Matures” (individuals between 63-75). Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life report this year found that social networking has almost doubled for people ages 50 and older – growing from 22 percent to 42 percent over the past year.

The Home for the Holidays campaign was developed by Eldercare Locator eight years ago.

The Eldercare Locator is a free national service of the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA) that is a first step to finding resources for older adults in any U.S. community. The program is  administered by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. Eldercare Locator can be reached directly at 800-677-1116 or www.eldercare.gov .

The Board of Chosen Freeholders champions the diversity and the richness of the county’s older adult population by providing outreach and support through the County Office on Aging. For information about the ongoing programs and offerings of the Monmouth County Office on Aging, call 877-222-3737 or 732-431-7450, visit the Office on Aging office at 21 Main and Court Center, Freehold, NJ. 07728 or the department’s Web site at www.visitmonmouth.com/aging.